The Global Perspective on Ethanol Production

World ethanol production for transport fuel tripled between 2000 and 2007 from 17 billion to more than 52 billion litres. In 2011 ethanol fuel production reached 84,6 billion litres, with the United States as the top producer with 52,6 billion litres, accounting for 62,2 percent of global production, followed by Brazil with 21,1 billion litres.

In 1977 the government made it mandatory to blend 20 percent of ethanol (E20) with gasoline (gasohol), requiring just a minor adjustment on regular gasoline motors.

Today the mandatory blend is allowed to vary nationwide between 18 percent to 25 percent ethanol (E25) and is used by all regular gasoline vehicles and flexible-fuel vehicles.

The Brazilian car manufacturing industry developed flexible-fuel vehicles that can run on any proportion of gasoline and ethanol. Introduced in the market in 2003, these vehicles became a commercial success, reaching the milestone of 10 million vehicles produced in March 2010, and 15 million in January 2012.

The ethanol-powered “flex” vehicles, as they are popularly known, are manufactured to tolerate hydrated ethanol (E100), an azeotrope composed of 95,6 percent ethanol and 4.4 percent water.

The first flex motorcycle was launched to the market by Honda in March 2009, and a second model in September 2009.

By the end of 2009, both Honda flexible-fuel motorcycles had sold a total of 183,375 units, representing an 11,4 percent market share of the Brazilian new motorcycle sales in that year.

Two other flex-fuel motorcycles manufactured by Honda were launched in October 2010 and January 2011. During 2011 a total of 956,117 flex-fuel motorcycles were produced, raising its market share to 56,7 percent.

Cumulative production of the four available flex fuel models since 2009 reached 1,48 million units in December 2011.

Since 2009 the Brazilian ethanol industry has experienced financial stress due to the credit crunch caused by the economic crisis of 2008; poor sugarcane harvests due to unfavourable weather; high sugar prices in the world markets that made it more attractive to produce sugar rather than ethanol; and other domestic factors that resulted in a decline of its annual production despite a growing demand in the local market.

United States
The United States produces and consumes more ethanol fuel than any other country in the world. Ethanol use as fuel dates back to Henry Ford, who in 1896 designed his first car, the “Quadricycle” to run on pure ethanol.

Then in 1908, he produced the famous Ford Model T capable of running on gasoline, ethanol or a combination of both. Ford continued to advocate for ethanol as fuel even during Prohibition.

Most cars on the road today in the US can run on blends of up to 10 percent ethanol, and motor vehicle manufacturers already produce vehicles designed to run on much higher ethanol blends.

In 2007 Portland became the first city in the United States to require all gasoline sold within city limits to contain at least 10 percent ethanol.

As of January 2008, three states – Missouri, Minnesota, and Hawaii – require ethanol to be blended with gasoline motor fuel.

Many cities also require ethanol blends due to non-attainment of federal air quality goals.

Several motor vehicle manufacturers, including Ford, Chrysler, and GM, sell flexible-fuel vehicles that can use gasoline and ethanol blends ranging from pure gasoline all the way up to 85 percent ethanol (E85).

As of early 2013, there were about 11 million E85-compatible vehicles on US roads, though actual use of E85 fuel is limited, not only because the ethanol fuelling infrastructures is limited, but also because many owners are not aware their vehicle is flex-fuel capable.

As of March 2013, there were 3 028 fuelling stations selling E85 in the US. – Online.


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